“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war,” A nation at risk (The Report, 1983).
That was 31 years ago, and we are falling further behind in our ability to successfully compete in today’s global economy. Other nations are leaving us behind in education while we argue about local control, which amounts to rearranging the chairs on The Titanic. We debate ideology, rather than pulling together as Americans have done when our nation is at risk. Today, we are doing what The Report said, “We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.”
One of the problems is that we continue to rest on our past successes. We keep believing we are an economic leader in the world; yet, other nations such as China and India are emerging as the next economic powers by producing a more educated work force. Globalization has changed the world's economic landscape, and other nations are taking advantage of the new opportunities brought about by change. The Internet, communication, new technology and demographics have empowered all nations.
Today, if we had to go to war against another nation, and our president had to call up the National Guard, I wonder if we would argue about all 50 state National Guard units using the same operations manual; that would take away local control. It’s time we started thinking as Americans working together to again be a top economic power we once were after WWII.
The threat to America identified in The Report is real, and greater in today’s flat world. If we want to succeed in the global marketplace, we ought to start thinking as Americans, rather than tribes. We have now become a nation of tribes with special interests and views about the world, and seldom find common places to share our views about our society. We are more divided economically, socially and educationally, and seldom listen to each other.
It’s time we start thinking as Americans – “one nation, indivisible.” For too long, we have been living off the successes of past generations and gotten too complacent. The danger our nation faces is not the threat from other nations, or the right wing or left wing ideologues. It is the middle class Americans that think the world ends at their property line. They are willing to reap the benefits of our society, but don’t bother to see how the world has changed, or the failure of leadership today.
If we want to have schools that will prepare our children for a rapidly-changing world, then as citizens we will have to take matters into our own hands. For too long, we have allowed some opportunistic politicians to disarm our educational system to placate the few vocal ideologues in order to keep their post. Citizens, come November elections, we must elect leaders who can begin a revolution in education so America can rearm itself to compete in the global economy. It starts with each of us renewing and committing ourselves to the pledge we once made when we were in grade school; as we did, we stood a little taller, a little prouder that we were “one nation, indivisible.” It’s our country and each of us as citizens has a duty to stand up and elect leaders who believe that.
John Florez served on the U.S. Senate Labor Committee, as Utah industrial commissioner and filled White House appointments, including deputy assistant secretary of labor and on the Commission on Hispanic Education. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org